The PDP cycle

Process summary

  • Employee and manager set a date for the annual meeting. They agree who is to provide feedback
  • Employee completes Part 1 and sends it to their manager at least 1 week before the meeting.
  • Manager collects relevant feedback and, following submission of Part 1 by the employee, completes Part 2 in draft.
  • Annual PDP meeting takes place. Any changes are made to Part 2 by the manager. The employee can add further comments before finalising.
  • Interim meetings (Part 3) take place throughout the year (it is suggested at least twice) to review and update the PDP.

Introduction

This performance and development plan (PDP) process is designed to meet the commercial needs of the business, and also to help employees achieve their full potential. If we understand what each employee does well and where they need help, we can provide coaching and offer planned training and development activities. The PDP should be used as a tool in succession planning for the business, to ensure we are constantly upgrading the competency of employees.

During the annual meeting and subsequent interim meetings, you, as manager, will help team members reflect on their own performance, and monitor progress towards objectives. To get the most out of the meetings, both the employee and the manager need to put in some real time and effort. If there are any areas you feel unsure about, you should contact the head of HR for advice.

Timing and participation

The annual meeting should normally take place in January each year. You will hold interim meetings to review and update at regular intervals. If you have new employees joining during the year, you should set objectives with them after they have successfully completed their probation period. These can be reviewed during the PDP. After they have passed their probation period, employees who have a permanent contract or a fixed-term contract with a duration of six months or more should be included in the annual PDP process. (Limited company contractors do not fall under the PDP process.)

General notes on using the forms

These forms are designed to be completed and submitted electronically, not hard copy.

Please use the document saving protocol on the front page, to ensure you always know what the most up-to-date document is.

When you open the document, ‘enable content’ when prompted, to ensure all the macros function as they should.

Hyperlinks on the front page will take you directly to the section you want to work on (part 1, 2 or 3).

All the text boxes are designed to expand, so don’t feel restricted by their size. Equally, don’t be intimidated by their size. It may be that sometimes there is very little, or nothing, for you to record in a section. Feel free to add rows to tables where you need to (or to leave rows blank if you don’t require them). Where a row has a RAG rating pick list, copy and paste the pick list to any rows you add.

Preparing for the annual meeting

Preparation for the annual meeting should cover the following steps:

Gather key documents and information

It will be useful for both employee and manager to refer the job description for the employee’s role. Current job descriptions can be found on SharePoint. If no accurate written job description is available, the employee may draft a job description and submit it to the manager along with Part 1, for discussion and agreement at the meeting.

For the 2021 PDP process, you do not have to have an accurate written job description before you start. You may just work from a shared understanding of the requirements of the role. However, during 2021, managers and their employees must work together to update and agree written job descriptions.

Documents you may find it useful to refer to:

  • Employee’s job description – see above
    (SharePoint location: VGC Doc Library>VGC Group Master Forms>Human Resources>3.HR.ADM.007 Management supervisory organisation responsibilities)
  • Employee’s previous PDP (or appraisal) form
  • VGC corporate objectives
  • PDP feedback form
    (SharePoint location: VGC Academy>Performance and development plan resources)
  • VGC Academy guide – includes the behavioural competency framework, standard competency profiles and development directory
    (SharePoint location: VGC Academy>VGC Academy Guide)
  • Sample completed PDP form
    (SharePoint location: VGC Academy>Performance and development plan resources)

You also need to confirm with your department head the job family the employee’s role sits within (eg individual contributor). This will help you to work out the relevant standard competency profile. Refer to the VGC Academy guide for more information on this. (The standard profile in the Academy guide is the default. If a non-standard competency profile has been created for the employee, you will need that to hand.)

Kick off the process / obtain additional feedback

Sit down with your team member to agree a date for the annual PDP meeting. At the same time, you should discuss and confirm with the employee which other individuals you will approach for some additional feedback. These could be colleagues, clients, people the employee manages or more senior staff. It is suggested that you seek additional feedback from 3 people.

You can use the PDP feedback form template (available on SharePoint) to obtain feedback, or simply speak to/email those you wish to get feedback from. You should collect feedback while the employee completes Part 1, so you have it to hand when you are drafting Part 2.

Review part 1

The employee needs to complete Part 1 – the self review – and send it to you at least one week before the meeting. Consider the following when reviewing the form:

  • Does your view of the employee’s performance (against job description, in demonstrating expected behaviours and in completing objectives) match theirs? If there are differences in perception, why have these occurred?
  • How might barriers to achieving objectives be minimised going forward?
  • What are the employee’s career aspirations? Are they realistic?
  • How appropriate are the suggested objectives? Are they SMART (please see below)?
  • What support will the employee need to achieve the suggested objectives? If advice is required on what training and development activities may be appropriate please contact the Head of HR.

Draft part 2

Section G: Looking back – performance against key roles and responsibilities

List the key roles and responsibilities of the job in first column (these would normally reflect the main headings in a job description). Select a RAG rating for each item, referring to the rating explanation within the form. Add specific examples to support your scores where possible. Include any relevant examples obtained from other people in the feedback exercise.

Section H: Looking back – going beyond

Record any examples of ‘going beyond’ for this employee. It is ok to leave this section blank if there is no particular example in the past 12 months. Include any relevant examples obtained from other people in the feedback exercise.

Section I: Looking back – values-led behaviours

Fill in the ‘Level required’ column according to the employee’s individual competency profile (standard/default profiles for all job families are in the VGC Academy guide appendices, or use a bespoke profile if this has been created).

Referring to the detailed behavioural competency framework (again, this can be found in the Academy guide appendices), decide the extent to which the employee is demonstrating the expected behaviours. Support your assessment with concrete examples where possible. Include any relevant examples obtained from other people in the feedback exercise. Then select a RAG rating for demonstration of values-led behaviours.

Section J: Looking back – achievement of objectives

The employee should have provided some detail on the extent to which they have achieved objectives in Part 1. Use this commentary box to confirm where you share their viewpoint and address any inconsistencies between your perceptions. Include any relevant examples obtained from other people in the feedback exercise. Then select a RAG rating for achievement of objectives.

Section K: Looking back – overall performance assessment

This is your opportunity to assign an overall rating taking into consideration all the measures of performance that have been reviewed. Please note there is no mathematical way to directly calculate this from the ratings in the previous sections. However, reviewing the information in the previous sections will assist you in making a balanced, objective overall judgement.

It is not expected that recent joiners or newly promoted employees will necessarily meet all requirements and an ‘amber’ rating may well be appropriate. The ‘gold’ rating must only be used when fully justified, and it would be unusual for this to be achieved year after year.

Whatever overall rating is awarded, you should try to identify what they would need to see in terms of performance to justify a higher overall rating as this will help you and your team member focus on the key areas for development. It is essential that the rationale behind any amber or red ratings are explained in the face to face meeting.

Section L: Looking forward – agreed objectives

Make sure you are as clear as possible on what the department and wider business is trying to achieve over the next 12 months. This will help to ensure that many/all the employee’s objectives contribute to wider aims.

You may find that you agree with many of the suggested objectives from Part 1 and these can simply be copied over, or amended as necessary. If you don’t believe a suggested objective is relevant, you will need to address this with the employee in the meeting. It is likely that you will want to include objectives in addition to those the employee has suggested, so put these in the draft, to be discussed in the meeting. It would be useful to discuss the relative importance of each objective so that there is a shared understanding of which objectives could be delayed or dropped if priorities change.

Robust objectives need to meet the following ‘SMART’ criteria:

  • Specific – unambiguous, concrete
  • Measurable – how much, how many, specified action
  • Achievable – challenging but realistic
  • Relevant – to the role and to business objectives
  • Timed – clear milestones/completion dates

Any objectives from the previous PDP that were not met but are still relevant should be carried over so that the employee continues to work towards them in the next period.

Carefully consider what support and training the employee will require to facilitate the achievement of objectives set. For example, this could be an activity to support the development of a behavioural competency or a technical qualification required to progress in the employee’s field. Remember, training does not have to mean a formal course or workshop – it could be as simple as shadowing another member of the team for a few hours. The VGC Academy guide has some examples of learning events that may support the employee’s objectives, but this is not exhaustive. Feel free to make your own suggestions, and seek proposals from the employee.

Section L2: Looking forward – agreed training and development activities

Requested training activity that requires booking and coordination from HR will be picked up from this section when the PDP is submitted and fed into the training plan for the year. Where a course from the Academy development directory is identified as a requirement, VGC will always aim to accommodate the request within a reasonable timeframe, bearing in mind a need to distribute the training budget appropriately between departments and individuals. Where an employee and manager have agreed that a learning event not listed in the directory would benefit the employee’s development, the company will still aim to meet the request subject to factors such as training budget availability. It is recommended that if a training requirement is urgent, you indicate this clearly on the form, so that this is information is picked up by HR for the training plan.

The annual PDP meeting

You can use the structure of Part 1 and Part 2 to ensure you cover all relevant areas. In essence, the meeting should include the following discussions:

  • Discussion of the employee’s general perceptions of how the last period has gone. What went well? What did not go well? You should refer to the ‘Looking back’ sections of Part 1 for this.
  • Discussion of current year performance. You should refer to the ‘Looking back’ sections of the Part 2 draft for this. This should include the sharing of any feedback that has been obtained from others prior to the meeting.
  • Discussion of the employee’s career aspirations and personal development plan, and agreement of related objectives for the next period. You should refer to the ‘Looking forward’ sections of both Part 1 and Part 2 for this.
  • Discussion of training and support required.
  • The focus of the meeting should not be salary – salaries are reviewed as part of a separate process (although information from the PDP meeting may well inform the salary review process, alongside other factors).

Giving feedback

Positive feedback

  • People are often quick to criticise but don’t always remember to praise. It is important to give explicit recognition for achievements.
  • People are motivated when their contribution is recognised and acknowledged.
  • Be specific e.g. “Your presentation to the team on the new database demonstrated your ability to communicate clearly and concisely – well done”.
  • The employee is likely to repeat a good piece of work that they know has been recognised.

Negative feedback

  • If the employee is not achieving an acceptable standard, part of the job of the manager will be to provide feedback on performance shortfalls. Essential points to bear in mind when delivering criticism:
  • It should not be a surprise! If the manager is regularly reviewing performance, the employee will be aware of performance shortfalls.
  • People can only take ‘so much’ negative feedback in one meeting. The manager may have a list of areas – it would be wise to approach the most critical area of concern first, and then gauge how the employee can cope with further negative feedback. If necessary the manager should hold back and wait until another one-to-one opportunity.
  • State the concerns as specifically as possible – be honest.
  • Seek the employee’s agreement on why there is a shortfall. Then seek their views on their performance and explore ways of improving performance.
  • Agree an action plan – the employee and the manager should work together on a solution making it clear that the employee is responsible. The manager’s role is to be supportive. Agree a realistic review date.

Dealing with difficulties

Dealing with disagreement

  • Accept that there may be some disagreement when discussing performance. However, seeing Part 1 as completed by the employee in advance of the meeting will help the manager identify potential areas of conflict.
  • Resist the temptation to argue – listen to what the employee has to say and then evaluate the fairness of both points of view.
  • Ensure you understand the view of the employee – reflect it back, restating their own position on the matter.
  • Pin-point the disagreement, encouraging the employee to identify how it can be resolved before offering ideas.
  • Negotiate a solution based on factual evidence. It must be realistic and achievable in a specific time frame.
    If no agreement is reached, end the meeting allowing a couple of days for cooling off – an opportunity to think things through.

Dealing with apathy

If the employee appears disinterested during the meeting, the following may help you find out why:

    • The employee may feel threatened by the process. You should check their understanding of the purpose of the PDP and sell its benefits.
    • Encourage the employee to talk about feelings of apathy.
  • Once you have identified the problem you can explore options for changing the situation and agree an action plan accordingly.

Dealing with unrealistic expectations

  • An employee may not be realistic in assessing his or her performance. If the manager believes their expectation is unrealistic they need to raise this at the meeting.
  • Explain that successful performance over a prolonged period is required for career progression.
  • Where the employee expects progression in the near future, identify specific areas of performance that need improvement before this can be considered.
  • Do not make promises that cannot be fulfilled. Decisions about the future will depend both on the employee’s own potential and availability of suitable positions.
  • Explore his or her views of what is required in the desired role.
  • Get the employee to match his or her current technical and behavioural competency against those needed in the desired role. This will highlight areas for action.
  • Discuss development needs and timescales.

Completing the annual process

You should take the opportunity diarise the next meeting (interim) at the end of the annual meeting, to support a continuous PDP dialogue. You could even diarise all the interim meetings you would like to have throughout the year, to ensure these update conversations don’t get forgotten about.

At the annual meeting or shortly afterwards, the manager should make any changes to the Part 2 draft, then send to the employee to add any further comments. Then the document (containing both Part 1 and 2 completed) should be sent to HR for DocuSign fields to be inserted. Finally, both parties will be prompted to sign the PDP electronically.

Interim meetings

The ‘Part 3’ form should be completed by the manager during or following any interim meetings with the employee that take place to review progress between annual PDP meetings. It is anticipated that these documented meetings should take place at least every 4 months (they can just form part of regular one-to-ones), but managers and employees may wish to have them more frequently. It may be that you don’t need to record something in every box of the form every time you meet if there aren’t updates in a particular area.

Two sets of interim meeting forms are provided for your convenience. You can duplicate the forms and add them to the end of the PDP document if you have more than 2 interim meetings between annual PDP meetings.

Section N: Commentary on performance

See description within form.

Section O: Business update

See description within form.

Section P: Developing activity planning/debrief

This is an opportunity for the manager and employee to look at the course content of any training events that have been booked and determine what the employee wants to get out of the activity. For example, if a course has been booked to develop a behavioural competency, you should look at the indicators in the framework to agree what the employee would benefit from focusing on. The training facilitator will most likely ask what people’s priorities are at the start, so it is useful to have thought about this.

If the employee has been to a learning event since the last interim meeting, it is useful to discuss what their main take-aways from the course were, and how they intend to put the learning into practice. To ensure the training has an impact, it may sometimes be appropriate to agree additional objectives supporting changes the employee wants to implement.

If your employee is still waiting to be booked on a requested course and the requirement has become urgent, use this opportunity to follow up (with HR, or whoever may be appropriate).

Section Q: Progress with objectives

You should revisit the ‘Agreed objectives’ section of Part 2 and provide an update on progress in the applicable column. Any new objectives that are put in place at interim meetings should be added to the original agreed objectives matrix in Part 2. This means when it comes to reviewing objectives at the next annual meeting, all objectives that have been generated throughout the year can be found in one place.

Section R: Additional training requirements

It is requested that any additional training requirements are recorded in this box to ensure they are picked up by HR and can be fed into future training planning.

At the end of the interim meeting, you should diarise the next meeting and the employee should be given the opportunity to add any additional comments. Save the document with a new number (in line with the document saving protocol on the front page).

You only need to submit the document to HR following an interim meeting if additional training requests have been generated.

Further support and feedback

If you would like further help or guidance at any stage, or if you have feedback on the PDP process, please contact the head of HR.